Crossing the Threshold

img_1358-copy

I didn’t notice the absence of my siblings, the eight closest living relatives to me. At other times, I have. I felt the longing for people who knew me, grew up with me, had a similar life. There was a time I yearned for them to see me and acknowledge my accomplishments.

The room was full of friends. People who supported me. Listened to my words. Really, listened to me.

Imagine if that teenager had had that support when she was 13, 14, or 16. Instead of the silence that accompanied the aloneness that scraped at my young heart. I was a pariah in my own family.

“When’s the baby coming home, Ann?” My 5-year-old brother who did see me would ask. “When’s the baby coming?” He wasn’t yet trained to pick up the subtleties, of who was in or out of the fold. He’s now dead. Died of a heroin overdose when he was 29 years old. I don’t hold any notion that he would have been there Friday night if he lived. My family runs in a pack or as a lone sheep in a gully.

With a sunkeness, I’d pat his sun streaked hair. It had the look and unruliness of summer cut straw.

Every time I speak of my birth son, the baby who didn’t come home, it’s a homecoming.

author 8-years-old

author     age 8

I live in this body. I breathe this air. I’m here to tell you that it does happen. Sisters sometimes get pregnant by a brother and have their baby and then if they are lucky enough, they get to write a book about it that people will read and celebrate with you at a book launch.

I recently read a Facebook post from a high school classmate who read, House of Fire, and she said that it had a happy ending. She was encouraging another classmate to read it.

Think of that. Out of tragedy you can have a happy ending. You can be a happy ending.

I was very happy Friday night at my book launch. Because you were there. And, if you weren’t, you sent me good wishes. All of me was up there at the podium, and it was enough. It has always been enough.

At the podium, I thanked relatives who came. And someone asked me later if my relatives were actually there. I smiled. It would have been something to point out a brother or sister. I would have wished for that before Friday night. But on this Friday what I had was abundance. “The relatives that are here are the chosen aunts and uncles that are in the book,” I said. Except my niece. That brave niece who came. Who fortunately doesn’t have the same story line I do though she’s looked across the fence at mine and knows it to be true.

My 40th high school reunion has come and gone. Not that I attended it. My book did though. Classmates are now reading, House of Fire. I’m in awe of the support. It’s unbelievable to that young teen who had nobody.

Coming home can be a difficult journey and yet the most wonderful. It has a happy ending.

photo-for-oct-21-reading_2If you’d like to hear more of my voice or you weren’t able to make it to my book launch, please join me and Su Smallen on October 21st at 7pm at Hamline University.

“Su Smallen´s new poems, a lexicon of snow, sing with notes of grief, sorrow, joy and resilience, pondering that great Midwestern element. . . . I am grateful for what this talented poet brings forward: pressing with renewed trust her words onto the pages the way you step — well, through snow.” – Spencer Reece

“House of Fire is a book of naked, sharp-edged truth, a journey into and through immense darkness. Yet it is also a profound testament to our deeply human ability to heal and transform.”
– Scott Edelstein

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Being Friends Is Not Natural

FullSizeRenderI drive past Richfield Middle School and spot Antonio and Crystel a block away. The 12-year olds are walking home from school. Backpacks slung over their shoulder. Track bags dangling at their side. Walking shoulder to shoulder. My heart warms. I’ve always wanted them to be friends. To be proud to call each other brother and sister.

I don’t believe that sibling friendship comes naturally. Friendships among siblings need to be nurtured.

What comes natural is comparison, competition, and mine, mine, mine.

Years ago, when I was the stay at home mom, Santa brought Antonio a Disney princess doll set and Crystel Spiderman pajamas. Santa was attempting to even the score that the four-year olds were keeping.

Why does he have a different laundry basket than me?
Do I get three licorice?
Does Crissy get a timeout too?
Can I help? Crissy got to use the mop last time.
Why did the tooth fairy bring him ….
I took a bath first last time.
I’m growing, Crystel’s not.
How come I don’t get no cars?

Antonio and Crystel looked to the other to see how they were doing.

1132To nurture a friendship between the two I sought out opportunities for them to be nice to each other. This could be in the form of passing a dessert, opening a door, saying a kind word, buying the other a birthday or Christmas present, or letting the other be first.

To enrich their friendship I noticed when someone’s heart was hurt and insisted the children make amends to each other. This could be a hug or saying something they liked about the other. Later when they were older it meant putting the words into writing, which they taped to their bedroom wall.

Even now on Crystel’s wall is a letter to her from six-year old Antonio that says:

1. hes the bes. (She’s the best)
2. hes fune. (Shes’s fun)
3. hes cule. (She’s cute)
4. ses sow moch fun to plau weht (She’s so much fun to play with)

On the other side of the letter is a picture of Raikou Pokemon that he drew for her.

DSCN0725It’s also allowing the children to take space from each other, especially when a sign shows up on a bedroom door that says, NO BOYS! This means you Antonio!

It’s teaching the children that privacy is good and respect for each other is a must.

It’s reminding them that the other was there for them when they met their birth mom and siblings and now it’s their turn to be supportive.

It’s celebrating their strengths and having compassion for their weaknesses.

One will always be faster. “I’ll wait for you, Cissy.”
One will always be braver. “You first, Cissy.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s letting them know that the world is a big place and that the Richfield Cross Country team is big enough for both of them. They both can choose running as their ‘thing’.

And, in the Spring when it comes time for sixth grade track and one doesn’t want to join because they don’t know anybody on the team and they don’t want to be a loner, they can count on the other one to look out for them and save them a place on the grass.

I pull the car over to the curb. Antonio and Crystel recognize me. Antonio opens the front passenger door and tosses his bags in. Then he opens the back door and slides in next to Crystel.

I smile at them. “I’m glad you’re friends.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust like when they were little, they look at each other and laugh.